THE death of more than 70 workers in a footwear factory in Valenzuela City is just one of the dangers faced by Filipino workers in the Philippines, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
ILO Director General Guy Ryder said the safety of workers cannot be overemphasized enough in light of these tragedies. He said these kinds of tragedies are preventable.
“Once again, we find ourselves mourning workers whose lives have been cut short as a result of workplace accidents. Often such accidents are preventable,” Ryder said.
“Everyone has the right to work in a safe and healthy environment, regardless of the industry they are in or the type of work that they do,” he added.
Ryder said workplaces must be kept safe by improving work conditions, especially in places like factories, where most of the low-skilled workers are working.
He said there must be regular inspections to ensure that factories comply with structural, fire and electrical safety.
This will help protect workers from work hazards.
Ryder added that there is a need to ensure workers’ rights, especially freedom of association and collective bargaining.
“As always, the ILO stands ready to assist, working with employers, workers and their organizations and all stakeholders to improve safety and health conditions in the workplace,” Ryder said.
The Delegation of the European Union (EU) to the Philippines, for its part, expressed concern over the poor labor conditions of workers in the country.
The EU said workers in the country continue to be subjected to the lack of proper safety standards that might have contributed to the shocking high number of victims in tragedies such as the Valenzuela fire. Nonetheless, the delegation welcomed the investigation, launched by the authorities to determine the cause of this tragic factory fire.
The delegation also welcomed the governments’ determination to ensure strict compliance of all factories across the country with occupational safety and health standards, in line with international labor standards including ILO conventions.
Labor safety standards must be upheld, especially under the Asean Economic Community (AEC) or the single market that will integrate the 10 Asean member-states, including the Philippines, be the end of the year.
This would mean freer flow of goods, services, investment and skilled labor will impact the structure of the economy, as well as jobs, skills, wages and labor mobility in the region.
Under the AEC, the ILO and Asian Development Bank said there will be an over 60-percent increase in demand for low-skilled workers.
Further, there is a projected 60-percent increase in the demand for high-skilled employment, such as managers, professionals, technicians and associate professionals.
Medium-skilled employment could also grow by around 25 percent. This covers mainly clerks, craft and related trade workers, plant and machine operators and assemblers, and service and sales workers.